News / USA

    Honeybees Still Disappearing in the US

    Beekeepers and scientist acknowledge the decline of Honeybees in US
    Beekeepers and scientist acknowledge the decline of Honeybees in US

    Honeybees, which are very important to agriculture, continue to disappear at alarming rates in the United States. And the cause of this disappearance is still elusive. While at least one recent study seems to point to pesticides as the problem, the US Agriculture Department has also found parasites causing general weakness among bee colonies. 

    Beekeepers around the country are struggling to keep their honeybees alive.  According to the US Department of Agriculture the losses around the country are between 50 and 90 percent.

    "Our losses for the last couple of years have averaged better than 60 percent a year," David Hackenberg stated. He is one of the largest beekeepers on the East Coast of the United States. He has worked with bees for the last 48 years. He blames the disappearance of his bees on pesticides.

    "The farmers, the horticulture people, the gardeners are pouring out all kinds of chemicals out here on the field, going in our soil and the stuff is coming back up in the plants," he said. "The unfortunate thing about this is that if this stuff is getting in the plants is also getting in the food."

    Hackenberg says the problem is especially evident in the wax the bees produce. "The wax absorbs most of the stuff.  The wax is just full of pesticides," he said.

    During the winter Hackenberg moves most of his bees to Florida.  As the spring comes in, he starts traveling north towards Pennsylvania with the bees, renting them to farmers, for weeks at a time, to pollinate all types of crops.  About a third of the U.S. food supply, in fact, comes from crops that are pollinated by insects. "Our bees move about 12,000 miles (19,000 kilometers) a year on the back of a truck," he explained.

    Bees fly free during the day and then return to their hive at night.  That is when Hackenberg packs them back into the trucks and moves on to the next crop.

    The mysterious disappearance of bees began about seven years ago in the U.S. and Europe.  Eventually the phenomenon was labeled "colony collapse disorder," or "CCD."  But while they now have a name for it, scientists still do not have a clear explanation for the problem.


    At the U.S. Agriculture Department's bee research lab in Maryland, Jeff Pettis is the research leader.

    "We think there is some group of interaction between things like poor nutrition, pesticide exposure and pathogens.  So I would point to those three things as adding enough stress to the colony that then that colony is susceptible to the pathogens to the viruses and bacteria."

    Pennsylvania State University recently released the results of a large study on honeybees.  It found an average of six different pesticides in the honey, wax and dead bees that were studied.  Some samples had more than 80.  Pettis participated in the research. "What we found was that there were a variety of pesticides that were in the pollen, the wax and the bees themselves," he says, "so there was a lot of exposure."

    While most studies are designed to show the effects of one pesticide at a time, research into combinations of pesticides is just beginning.

    "Penn State, the lab here, several labs around the country are beginning to combine different pesticides together and look at the synergy of it as it goes on," Pettis said.

    Pettis says no research has yet shown enough evidence to declare pesticides as the only reason the bees are disappearing.  He says the bee colonies that have collapsed show high disease levels, but scientists have not been able to explain how that happens. "The only clear signal that we see is that when the bees die they have high levels of viruses and pathogens," he explained.

    Research indicates that poor nutrition among bees is mostly due to large fields of single crops, which leave the bees without enough variety in their diet. There are other theories as well, but all of them seem to point in the same direction as David Hackenberg's outlook:

    "I don't think the future is good," Hackenberg says, "It's going to take a long time to clean up our environment.  We contaminated our environment to the point that is going to take a long time to reverse it."

    Report narrated by Elizabeth Lee

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora